Climate Change in the Northern Latitudes

Which parts of the Earth are experiencing the effects of climate change at a faster rate?
And the answer: Northern Latitudes.    
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Bernhard-Staehli

As the sea ice melts, the open ocean absorbs more heat from the sun, causing even more ice to melt. This phenomenon is called Arctic amplification, which is causing the faster rate of climate change in higher latitudes.

With sea ice in our Arctic waters, the Sun's harsh rays are easily reflected back into the atmosphere— effectively keeping the Earth cool. However, as temperatures rise and sea ice melts, that warmth is absorbed into the ocean, which causes a cascade of effects on its environment. While warmer ocean waters might make for a nice swim, it actually is a condition that is less hospitable for life: warm waters are less productive, hold less oxygen, and are more conducive to algal blooms.

Glaciers are one of the most recognizable features of the Northern climate. Climate change, however, diminishes the stature and integrity of these ancient natural creations every day. Alaska's glaciers are steadily decreasing in area and volume at a rate of 50 gigatons of ice per year, which causes 0.14 mm/yr sea level rise and contributes about 5.5% of the total sea level rise. 5.5% percent of total sea level rise might not sound like a whole lot, but becomes much more impressive when you consider that Alaska's glaciers are only about a half of 1% of all the glacier/ice sheet cover on the planet, while contributing to about 9% of the total ice melt globally.

The Northern Hemisphere has led the Southern Hemisphere in its rate of warming since about 1980, largely due to the fact that the Northern Hemisphere has more land and less ocean than the Southern Hemisphere (not to mention that oceans warm relatively slowly). Prior to 1980, the long-term increase in greenhouse gases during the 20th century was essentially cancelled out by man-made aerosol emissions, which mostly cooled the Northern Hemisphere.

It has never been more important to remain conscious and careful when considering travel or other factors that contribute to the rise in temperatures on our planet. Learn more about the effects of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere here.

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